Dynamical mass segregation on a very short timescale

Richard J. Allison, Simon P. Goodwin, Richard J. Parker, Richard De Grijs, Simon F. Portegies Zwart, M. B.N. Kouwenhoven

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

192 Citations (Scopus)


We discuss the observations and theory of star cluster formation to argue that clusters form dynamically cool (subvirial) and with substructure. We then perform an ensemble of simulations of cool, clumpy (fractal) clusters and show that they often dynamically mass segregate on timescales far shorter than expected from simple models. The mass segregation comes about through the production of a short-lived, but very dense core. This shows that in clusters like the Orion Nebula Cluster the stars ≥ 4 M can dynamically mass segregate within the current age of the cluster. Therefore, the observed mass segregation in apparently dynamically young clusters need not be primordial, but could be the result of rapid and violent early dynamical evolution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)L99-L103
Number of pages5
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • galaxies: star clusters
  • methods: N-body simulations
  • stars: formation
  • stellar dynamics


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